John Weidman, for Contact
No stranger to this category, Dramatist's Guild president and Contact author John Weidman has accumulated almost as many awards and nominations as he has theatre credits. These include a Tony Award for Best Revival for Anything Goes (with Timothy Crouse), Tony nominations for Best Book and Musical for Pacific Overtures (with Stephen Sondheim), and a Tony nomination for Best Book for Big, featuring a score by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire.
Richard Nelson, for James Joyce's The Dead
An honorary associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, playwright-director Richard Nelson distinguishes himself by diversity. His plays for RSC and Lincoln Center Theater brought him accolades: Two Shakespearean Actors earned a Tony nomination for Best Play, while Some Americans Abroad earned an Olivier Award nomination for Best Comedy. As a writer, Nelson has worked on Broadway, in leading regional theatres, in film (Miramax's "Ethan Frome") and has authored a book on playwriting, "Making Plays," with David Jones.
Michael John LaChiusa, for Marie Christine
Having earned two Tony nods in a single category, for Marie Christine and The Wild Party, LaChiusa's Tony buzz actually began before Bebe Neuwirth helped Kelsey Grammer pronounce his name at the 2000 Tony nominations press conference. LaChiusa's musical adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold earned him a 1997 Tony nomination for Best Musical as well as a Best Book nomination with Jim Lewis and Graciela Daniele. His numerous credits include Off-Broadway's Hello Again and First Lady Suite, which earned him Obie Awards.
George C. Wolfe and Michael John LaChiusa, for The Wild Party
Director-author George C. Wolfe won Tony Awards for helming Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk. His other directing credits on Broadway include On the Town; The Tempest; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Angels in America and Jelly's Last Jam, which he co-authored. In addition to Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics' Circle, Drama-Logue and Obie awards, Wolfe has won Equity's Paul Robeson Award; SSDC's Calloway Award, the Bessie Award, the George Oppenheimer/ Newsday Award and the Lambda Liberty Award.
Analysis: A tough call for Tony voters. On paper, the nominees in this category rival each other in almost every regard. On stage, the race is easier to describe, though no easier to call. At Lincoln Center, where the popular Contact survived an eligibility challenge by Musicians Local 802, LaChiusa's adaptation of Medea, Marie Christine, was also highly regarded. Further south, the intriguing tapestry of James Joyce's The Dead drove the show's transfer from Playwrights Horizons to Broadway, while only one Wild Party, by LaChiusa and Wolfe, had the same good fortune this season.